It’s easy to get very reverential about film festivals – steeped in juries, committees and rigorous selection processes, you can’t help but imbue the whole process with a sense of quality and respect. And then there’s the market. Festivals such as Cannes and Berlin are accompanied by a slew of market screenings that are somewhat lacking in that trustworthy selection process. This year’s European Film Market does not disappoint, with supernatural bad trips, gigolos and a disturbing number of dog-themed films. This is by no means an indictment of the films themselves – just the titles they’re being sold under. It makes them stand out from an overcrowded market line-up. Just maybe not to their advantage.
A Christmoose Story
“A giant moose crashes through the roof of Max’s garage! A moose named Mr Moose, a moose that talks!”. Apparently the moose in question was performing a test run with Santa Claus when he lost control of the sleigh and crashed, needing to rest up with Max’s family until Santa comes to get him. I’m sure this Dutch title will be warming hearts throughout the festival.
Anselm, the Young Werewolf
Anselm is a fifteen year old boy whose body starts to change uncontrollably during puberty. His confusion leads him to search for the mother he never knew, in order to find out what he will become. Look, my issue here is not the plot. Well, maybe a little, but it’s a plot that others have gotten away with before, so I think the filmmakers should be given a chance – a well done supernatural young adult film would be a breath of fresh air at this stage. My issue is the title itself. It’s so genuinely unimaginative. Furthermore, the filmmakers are aware of how bad it sounds. The director Matti Pekkanen, has said that “the title of the movie has been a topic of discussion throughout production”, given that it is “so damn stupid”. Pekkanen explains that the title “tells you what the movie is about”. It certainly does at that. I don’t want to say spoilers, because there’s only so much about a young adult werewolf film that can be spoiled (transformation metaphors, anyone?), but there’s something to be said for leaving at least a little to the imagination. But now we know, as the director says, that “the movie is about Anselm, a young werewolf”.
Apokalips X tells the story of rival gangs engaged in a turf war in a post-apocalyptic world that has been destroyed by chemical warfare. This Malaysian film, from director Mamat Khalid, could well be a good new take on the post-apocalypse genre. I just love the way the title indicates the collapse of social structures. It’s the apocalypse, street style.
This exploitation film from Godzilla and Death Note director Shusuke Kaneko follows a quartet of idol singers who are “butt-kicking action heroines” in their spare time. An earthquake releases extraterrestrial invaders from an alternate invasion and the Danger Dolls have to infiltrate the evil cult behind the invasion to save the Earth. I’m hoping for a cross between Sailor Moon and Danger Five. And the merchandising possibilities just speak for themselves.
Doraemon: New Nobita’s Great Demon – Peko and the Exploration Party of Five
I can’t help but feel that there’s some context or prior knowledge that I’m missing in order to make sense of this title. There are just so many…. things. In one title. This anime film is a remake of the 1982 film Doraemon: Nobita and the Haunts of Evil, which is itself based on the manga and anima series Doraemon. The plot seems to concern spirits and stray dogs though it’s hard to find a good synopsis. I just feel like I need to know more about Doraemon, Nobita and Peko before I get my head around the Exploration Party of Five.
The Famous Five 3
Just too many numbers. All I ask for is originality in sequel titles. Honestly, it would be great if this applied across the industry – I cringe every time I see Taken 2 – but in particular for those titles that contain numbers. Mike Marzuk’s film is, unsurprisingly, the third instalment in the Famous Five series, following the titular group during their holiday at a small seaside village. There’s a pirate, buried treasure and, apparently, the film contains “minor language”, which is not what I expected from a Famous Five film.
Kikaider – The Ultimate Human Robot
A human robot? The oxymoron is too good to pass up. And not just a human robot – the ultimate human robot. Ten Shimoyama’s film follows a robot built with an incomplete “conscience circuit”, which creates an inner conflict between his good and evil impulses. Expect lots of moral ambiguity and heavy-handed metaphors for flawed human morality. After all, this is the ultimate human robot we’re talking about.
Audiences are definitely bored of rich humans featuring in film plots. It’s time to expand, time to explore, time to introduce a new brand of millionaire. The canine kind. This live-action “canine comedy” was picked up by sales agent DeAPlaneta, whose sales manager Gorka Bilbao said “It’s a family film – and that sells well in international – and dog films are a very easy concept”. Going on their overrepresentation at this year’s festival, Bilbao may be on to something. This question is how many ‘dog + ____’ plots are left for the rest of us.
A loner’s deadly stare allows him to control minds, rob banks and save the day. This Japanese film from Hideo Nakata is a remake of the 2010 South Korean film Haunters. Why not call the new one Haunterz? Psychicz? Supernaturalz? Aren’t we judging the morality of mind control a little too readily here? And is there more than one monster? These are the questions.
Following the relative box office success of Fading Gigolo, perhaps there’s hope for Ismail Saidi’s Moroccan Gigolos. It follows three men who are “willing to do anything to reach their dream” of opening a sandwich shop in the heart of Brussels, including prostitution. Apparently this gets them into “various funny situations”. We may have to be the judge of that, although if the poster is anything to go by, things are looking grim.
Out of Inferno 3D
This Chinese action film from directors Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang sounds like The Raid plus a fire – a fire breaks out in a busy commercial tower, and a “gaggle of fire fighters with an indestructible enthusiasm are going to save lives”. Let the puntastic reviews begin – the Hollywood Reporter’s Clarence Tsui has already made used the words “fiery” and “scorching” to describe the film. It’s downhill from here.
Paranormal Bad Trip 3D
I’ve always gotten a peculiar joy out the translation of The Hangover into French – it’s quite simply known as Very Bad Trip. Not Very Bad Trip in French, just…. Very Bad Trip. So I was really hoping for a sort of “wolf pack meets the supernatural” with this title. What do you know? Frederic Grousset’s film tells the story of three friends celebrating a bachelor party, whose “crazy night turns into a nightmare when they crash into a young bride. Against all odds this accident will unleash the forces of evil”. If ever I need a lesson in being careful what I wished for, this is it. Oh, and it’s a found footage film. Lucky me.
Somewhere, someone is congratulating themselves for combining Piranha 3D and Sharknado. To be honest, I thought we were all still reeling from the combination for sharks and tornados. Leigh Scott’s Piranha Sharks follows great white sharks the size of piranhas, who get into the New York City water supply and “do what great white sharks do best”. Really. This is too much.
Pudsey the Dog: The Movie
Described as “a heartwarming, qunitessintially British adventure for all the family”, Nick Moore’s Pudsey the Dog: The Movie is the latest in our dog-themed line-up for this year, featuring the voices of Olivia Colman, David Walliams and Jessica Hynes. But wait, there’s more – Pudsey originally appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 with his partner, Ashleigh. Have I just not noticed the great dearth of dog films? Are the filmmakers so desperate to redress it that they’re turning to talent show dogs for films now?
Serial (Bad) Weddings
I don’t even have to know anything about this film other than its title. It clearly features several bad weddings. My schadenfreude is piqued. Bring it. Apparently having already made $60m in France, the film follows a stuffy upper-class patriarch dealing with his four daughters’ multi-cultural marriage. I can smell the barely socially acceptable racism from here.
Space Dogs 2
Dogs. In Space. The sequel. The US-Russian co-production (and please, take a moment to revel in a US-Russian co-production about dogs in space. Just really enjoy that one for a moment) features astronaut dogs travelling to the dark side of the moon to discover the source of strange happenings on Earth. Should be a hit on the Croisette. Cannes has shown a fondness for dogs in the past, with its Palm Dog Award going in past years to The Artist‘s Uggie, Banjo and Poppy from Sightseers and Baby Boy from Behind the Candelabra. I don’t know if that Palm Dog extends to films outside the Official Selection, but if it does, Space Dogs 2‘s protagonist has some competition from Pudsey and the millionaire dog. This one should be a hotly contested accolade.
Time Trip App
A high school teacher and her students accidentally travel back in time to the Edo era of Japanese history, meeting important historical figure Katsu Kaishu. Unfortunately the lesson might have to be cut short with a war on the horizon. It looks like kids these days don’t need a magic school bus to travel through time and go on wacky pedagogical adventures. I gather there’s now an app for that. This one puts Hermione’s time turner to shame.
This one gets points for misdirection. I thought it was going to be another dog-themed family film (and let’s face it, who couldn’t do without another dog-themed family film?). Instead, Martin Kemp’s film follows “hooligan boss Billy Evans” – an actual top dog in the terraces – who clashes with gangsters over a backstreet protection racket. Looks like Billy might meet a slightly different end to Pudsey.
This Canadian title concerns an alcoholic police officer who turns into a werewolf. Really, it’s about “one cop’s quest to become a better man. One transformation at a time”. I can’t help but feel we’re opening the floodgates for vocational werewolves. I’m hoping for Wolfdoc next: he can save people’s lives but he can’t save them from himself.